Oil’s Death Spiral

Scare stories should not be the exclusive preserve of lefties, so here’s ours: oil will be gone in 5 years.

Economics 101 says a rising commodity price triggers less demand and more supply, ultimately stabilizing price. But if oil and gas are thought to be running out, the reverse will happen – buyers will demand more, suppliers will provide less, and price will rise exponentially.

Here are the sensible Norwegians managing their gas:

Norway recently moved to decrease short-term natural gas shipments to Europe, an indication it will use its extensive hydrocarbon reserves to maximize revenue. And that revenue maximization will come primarily at the expense of the U.K.

…Norway appears to be re-evaluating its export strategy, as it is now in a strong negotiating position with Europe. While few expect it to exploit its neighbors’ thirst for gas, the country does seem poised to maximize profits from it, while meeting its long-term objective of preserving its already-peaked oil resources.

If you have diminishing reserves, and prices are set to climb, and you don’t need the money, it makes sense to leave the oil where it is.

Even if a supplier’s reserves aren’t diminishing, there’s a lot of sense in leaving the oil where it is because it will take its consumers two decades to retool with nukes and biofuels and in the meantime you can rely on ever increasing prices.

If all suppliers follow the Norwegian model, oil will get ever pricier.

And in that case, the rational strategy for consumer nations will be to stockpile cheap oil now. Which will lift demand – and prices – even more.

There are assorted end states, including real wars for oil, massive rationing, accelerated switching to coal and nuclear.

And if we really are in global cooling cycle, it’s back to the Dark Ages.

At least the warmists will be happy as they freeze to death.

UPDATE March 18:

This Wall Street Journal piece suggests global oil production has peaked (my ellipsis):

The crunch is due to a slate of “above-ground” factors that make it unlikely the world will ever produce the amounts of oil (oil production optimists) think it will…

That includes sudden and voracious demand from China and India; cost issues that make exploration more expensive for companies; geopolitical barriers that make that exploration untenable; and environmental constraints that hamstring oil production in way they never did before.

The comments, some from experts, tend to confirm this – one points out, correctly, that if we all switch to nuclear power, the supply of Uranium will be a constraint. Unless, that is, we use Thermal Breeder Reactors, which use plentiful Thorium, not Uranium (my ellipsis):

As of 2006 only India is developing (Thermal Breeder) technology.

Indian interest is motivated by their substantial thorium reserves; almost a third of the world’s thorium reserves are in India, which in contrast has less than 1% of the world’s uranium. Their stated intention is to use both fast and thermal breeder reactors to supply both their own fuel and a surplus for non-breeding thermal power reactors.

Total worldwide resources of thorium are roughly three times those of uranium, so in the extreme long term this technology may become of more general interest.

If it works, that pretty well guarantees India as the next superpower.


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